nUndocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefits, including Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI), TemporaryAssistance for Needy Families (TANF), health care (including Medicare and Medicaid), and food stamps.
nUndocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes, often for services they are not eligible to receive. All immigrants pay sales taxes when they make purchases, and property taxes on homes and rental properties. Many undocumented immigrants provide employers with counterfeit documents to secure employment, and they pay taxes typically deducted from payroll, such as federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes.
nThe Social Security Administration (SSA) reported that, as of October 2005, an accumulation of $520 billion was paid into the Social Security systemby undocumented immigrants, representing a majority of the billions of dollars in payments (tracked through the SSA’s Earnings Suspense File) that cannot be collected later because they were made under names or Social Security numbers that do not match SSA records (www.coloradoimmigrant.org).
nThe crime and incarceration rates are lower for immigrants than they are for U.S. natives. According to the 2000 census, the incarceration rate of native U.S. men ages 18 to 39 was five times higher than the rate for foreign-born men (3.5% compared to 0.7%, respectively). Foreign-born Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans—the three nationalities that make up the majority of the undocumented immigrant population in the United States—had the lowest incarceration rates of any Latin American nationality.
nComprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) would be a boost to the economy.
nA 2010 report released by the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress, “Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (www.immigrationpolicy.org), finds that CIR—which includes a legalization program for unauthorized immigrants and enables the future entry of legal workers—would result ina large economic benefit, a cumulative $1.5 trillion in additional U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over 10 years, compared with a deportation-only policy that would result in a loss of $2.6 trillion in GDP over 10 years.
nA 2009 report by The Cato Institute, “Restriction or Legalization? Measuring the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform” (www.cato.org), found that immigration reform would boost the income of U.S. households by $180 billion in 2019, and that tighter restrictions and a reduction in less-skilled immigrant workers would impose larger costs on native-born U.S. Americans by shrinking the overall economy and lowering worker productivity.
nThe purchasing power of immigrants stimulates the economy. The Selig Center for Economic Growth at The University of Georgia reported that the purchasing power of Latino immigrants totaled $978.4 billion in 2009 and is projected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2014. Similarly, the purchasing power of Asian immigrants in the United States totaled $508.6 billion in 2009 and is projected to reach $609.5 billion by 2014.
nFor the vast majority of the more than 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, there is no “line”to get into to obtain legal statusunder the current immigration system. The system has not been updated for more than 20 years, and it allows for only limited categories of legal immigration. For instance, only 5,000 visas per year are allotted for less-skilled workers such as landscapers, hotel workers, and construction workers.
Compiled by the Rev. Aundreia Alexander, J.D., national coordinator for Immigration and Refugee Services for American Baptist Home Mission Societies.